The newest UWUA contract with Consumers Energy is one of the best for utility workers in the nation.
The Michigan State Utility Workers Council (MSUWC), comprised of 22 of Michigan’s UWUA local unions, worked with National Executive Vice President Steve VanSlooten to negotiate with Consumers Energy and win a contract that is unprecedented in the United States. All of the local presidents had a say in the negotiations and stood together for their members.
The 5-year contract includes unprecedented benefits. Highlights include: 85% of work guaranteed on all generation, electric lines and gas work. Only 15% of work can be contracted out at any time. Saturday and Sunday shift premiums also increased an additional 25%. Weekend on-call shift schedules were also set so that working on-call 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday results in being paid for 40 hours. Additional shift premiums and a double time day for working during the week before assignment were also negotiated.
Health benefits were changed slightly. However, employer 401(k) pension contributions are being raised coinciding with the raise in base salary for current and future employees. Seasonal employees will also begin receiving health benefits during the off season.
Mutual gains bargaining
“The newest contract is an example of solidarity in action,” said Local 105’s President Robin McGregor. “With all of the locals working together, we’ve won the best contract in the industry today. A special thank you to UWUA National Executive Vice President Steve VanSlooten for his help in obtaining this contract.”
With the Consumers Energy OM&C contract set to expire in June 2015, the council agreed to enter into early negotiations with the company utilizing a mutual gains bargaining (MGB) approach. The MGB process allows for the involvement of more members in the development of options aimed at resolving one party or the other’s issues. As a result, four joint option teams were put in place made up of members of management and local presidents within the council. The option teams included one gas team, two electric teams, and a generation team.
Additionally, there was a data team that focused on validating any numbers utilized throughout the process. The result of these negotiations were significant, and a new 5-year contract (June 2015 – June 2020) with Consumers Energy was ratified overwhelmingly by the membership. The contents of this contract include among other things:
- 3% general wage increase for each year of the agreement, with the existing COLA folded into the base rate and a yearly COLA true-up
- A guarantee of percentage of work to MSUWC members/classifications covered under the contract
- Gas and Electric Field – 85%
- Generation Maintenance 80% by contact term
- Generation Operations and Fuel Supply 100% including new emissions equipment
- Increase in night shift premium and Saturday and Sunday premiums
- Increase in per diem and per day in lieu of board
- Increase in on-call pay
- Increase in natural fiber and fire retardant Clothing Allowance
- Bonus for storm response
- Health Care PPO plan from 85% to 80% with caps on weekly employee contributions
- Medicare exchange account for Medicare retirees beginning last year of the contract
- 100% pension survivor benefit after age 55 for deceased actives
- Increase in employer provided defined company contribution program
- Increase in employer 401(k) match
- Increase in company provided life insurance
- Establishment of generating plant 12-hour rotating shift schedule as a pilot at selected plants